New Year's resolutions create such unique opportunities for change. One year, as a young adolescent, I decided to give up butter for a year. My resolutions now are usually less concrete and more realistic, but I still practice reflecting on the events of the past year and setting some resolutions for the new year. In addition, as a mental health counselor, I find myself thinking through my hopes for my clients. This letter is written with those hopes in mind.
To my clients at the start of a new year:
This morning, I woke up with a sneeze and felt the "bah humbug" that accompanies Monday mornings all over the world. It wasn't a great start to my morning. It had me thinking about how I choose to start my morning and how I will choose to start my year. And how I hope you may choose to start your year.
Finally, it snowed. I may not love Monday but I do love snow. It's a few days after Christmas and I can feel a cool draft coming off the window in front of me. I wrap my hand around a warm mug of coffee and remember the exercise we practiced in self-compassion, using warmth as a reminder for the emotional warmth we can turn towards ourselves. That's the first thing I wish for you this year: self-compassion.
I look through my window, panes of glass separating my cozy space from the outdoors. Not every counseling session is a "breakthrough" session, but I recently felt a genuine connection with you when you worked so hard to put your emotions into words during our session. When we genuinely connect to another person, when we overcome our barriers, we find that our windows can open. We can experience profound community. That's the next thing I wish for you, and not just in my office: genuine connection to other people.
It's time for me to finish my coffee and head to the office to hear what you have to say today. How has your story changed since last session? I wonder. What will you learn about yourself in today's session, and how will you grow from that information? These are the last two things I wish for you in the new year: insight and growth. Insight as you learn about yourself, and growth as you take that knowledge and use it to challenge yourself.
The end of the year is a time to look back and to look forwards. We can find strength in the adversity we faced over the past year, in how we survived. We can grow into the hopes and resolutions of a new year.
I take the last sip of coffee, a morning ritual completed. My Monday "bah humbug" has been replaced by momentum building towards my day.
I hope you will have a Happy New Year, but more than that I'd like to wish you compassion, connection, insight, and growth. May you grow towards your healthiest self in 2016.
With all my best,
*NOTE: This letter is not written based on any one individual or directed to any person in particular, but rather to the people who may find themselves sitting in the client's chair. This letter is not intended to be used as therapy; please contact your doctor or therapist for mental health needs.